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Captains play large part in industry growth

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Reading the recent article published by The Triton where captains appeared to make some resolutions for 2015 [From the Bridge: “Captains resolve to make yachting better,” page A1, January issue], it made me wonder if these resolutions would be similar to most New Year resolutions. Let’s wait and see?

Maybe I seem a bit cynical, but actually I’m heartened and quietly optimistic that many yacht captains are coming to realize that they have a wider responsibility in this industry that goes beyond their own vessel.

However I am reluctant to say it, though in some ways captains (collectively) only have themselves to blame for the status of performance, presentation, crewing and training within the yachting industry.

Captains’ actions — or the lack thereof — have been a contributing factor in the manner in which crew are (mis)managed, the (poor) relationships with owners, and how training is organized and delivered in the industry.

These features are not symptoms that have just arisen overnight but have incrementally developed as the industry has grown. Moreover, this is not just geographically limited to the Americas but applies globally wherever yachts are located.

Conversations I have had over the recent past with suppliers, insurers, yards and other industry participants reveals that there is a fair degree of concern and anxiety over the skills and capabilities of some captains, particularly in the so-called “soft skills” of management (communication, recruitment/selection/termination, team building, performance review, delegation, etc.). Additional concerns in support skills such as accounting, budgeting, reporting and technology knowledge have also been expressed.

Crew continue to voice their concerns about the capabilities of some captains (Triton survey, October 2013), which in turn illustrates that all is not well in the leadership/management space for many vessels.

Moreover, a survey done by The Triton last year (January 2014) illustrated the gap in perceptions of understanding of communications concerning captains and crew.

Discussion with industry sources confirms what we already have known, that, according to many owners, it is the capability and performance of the crew that either make or break the ownership experience.

Of course, this is only anecdotal as no research has ever been done examining this topic.

It is vitally important to the long-term health of the industry to have owners who are not just satisfied but are enraptured and exhilarated with the professional performance of their crew. Service excellence in the industry for all crew onboard is critical.

I’m encouraged that captains are talking about these matters. Recognizing and discussing their own performance shortcomings gives me some confidence for the future.

Getting real change happening is about establishing a framework for change. This is where a group of captains has taken the initiative and started an organization to capture the collective views of yacht captains and to seek ways and means of converting these concerns into actions and change agendas.

Less than a year ago there was no representational body for yacht captains. Therefore, a group of captains formed a Yacht Captains Association for the purposes of representing captains and fostering continuous professional development. Although it is still early days, the YCA is established, has made some advances in 2014 and intends on strengthening its role in the industry in 2015.

All captains are invited to consider membership, and as like any other membership-based organization, its strength is determined by its membership. We welcome all captains to consider becoming involved.

The YCA is encouraged by the rising tide of interest and the growing realization that captains have a responsibility to contribute to the growth and positive development of the yachting industry. We look forward to further strengthening our presence and our role in 2015.

Capt. Ian Bone is board chairman and co-founder of the Yacht Captains Association. Contact him through www.yachtcaptains.org.

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